Need more sensitivity in rape cases: Nirbhaya cop

New Delhi: Gender sensitivity in dealing with rape cases has increased but constant attention and monitoring is needed to ensure due process of law is followed, said Chhaya Sharma, who is better known as the Delhi Police officer who cracked the December 2012 Nirbhaya rape case.

It has been seven years since the gruesome rape-cum-murder case shook the conscience of the nation and Sharma, who is now Deputy Inspector General, Investigation, at the National Human Rights Commission, in a conversation with IANS, recalled how it personally affected her despite having seen all sorts of crimes during her long career in policing.

“Being a blind case, this case was tough to crack from the very beginning. The case was important for me both personally and professionally because it put to test all my professional knowledge, field experience, personnel management and leadership skills to test,” said Sharma who was also the central character on a recent web series focussing on the case.

About how the case affected her, she said that the challenges faced and handled during the case made her more mature as an officer and toughened her personally.

“It also made me believe staunchly in a quote that says ‘The trouble is, you think you have time!’ While guiding my team, I would continuously remind them of the race against time and inspire them to apprehend the perpetrators despite all odds,” she said explaining how it was a blind case and her team race against time to find out the six unknown accused and a white bus, the only starting points available to launch the probe.

Right from the collection of evidence, arrest of all the six accused and filing of the charge sheet happened within 18 days.

Sharma, who was heading the South Delhi police at that time, said that the case personally haunted her for a long time and even though she tried to repress her feelings, it was too difficult to look away.

“As woman, being more sensitive and emotional, it is even more difficult to control personal emotions during professional work but the job demands it and any show of emotion may label oneself as weak, not sensitive or emotional.

“Moreover, to inspire other team members, a lot of emotions need to be kept at bay and while interacting with media, staff, victim’s family and other places, one need to keep one’s emotional quotient balanced in line with professionalism. So it was difficult, yet it had to be done for professional needs,” she said, claiming the web series on the film made by Richie Mehta was 80 to 90 per cent correct representation of the events and the rest creative adaptations.

On what has changed after the 2012 incident, she said that biggest transformation has been in the police response to crimes related to women.

“This was mainly due to the widespread public outcry which led to the amendments in laws leading to a number of petty crimes like voyeurism, stalking etc becoming offences under sexual assault and harassment hitherto only covered vaguely by section 354 of Indian Penal Code,” she said.

“As a stark example, now the officers posted in police stations cannot deny registration of a FIR after receiving a complaint relating to sexual harassment and assault. Any disregard can invite a criminal case against the officer. This has definitely increased verbatim registration of complaints from victims of sexual assault.

“In public, the change has been of increased reporting by women and support from their families. The public, on its part, generally became more open to coming to the police for help against serious as well as petty offences rather than becoming mute spectators. Families, who were hitherto unsure, had now begun to support women in making complaints to police and seeking justice rather than becoming mute spectators of crime,” she added.

Sharma firmly believes that any lackadaisical approach needs to be nipped in the bud.

Sharma, who was recently awarded by McCain Institute of International leadership at Arizona State University, also said that there has been a change in policing after 2012 because of more gender sensitive training. She said there is more sensitivity towards juveniles and POCSO (Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act) victims.

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